PENDLETON — With a buzzer-beating shot heard ‘round the world of 2A boys basketball, the third time was the charm for the Vernonia Loggers.
In the biggest Logger Showdown on the brightest stage, Vernonia cut down Knappa 52-50 for the first time in three meetings this season, in a quarterfinal game of the Class 2A state tournament.
Gunnar Harral’s shot at the buzzer gave the upstart Loggers of Vernonia their first victory over the Loggers of Knappa since Jan. 30, 2016.
The Elite Eight game at the Pendleton Convention Center featured No. 2 seed Knappa, which had scored two wins by a combined 34 points over No. 11 seed Vernonia.
But in a back-and-forth game that saw Knappa lead by as much as nine points in the second half, Vernonia rallied behind NWL Player of the Year Clay Sullivan to score the upset.
Sullivan fought off foul trouble and finished with a game-high 31 points for Vernonia. Timber Engblom led Knappa with 22.
As it has done all season, Knappa came out scoring on offense and forcing turnovers on defense to build a 10-5 lead behind scores from Joe Ramvick and Engblom.
Vernonia took its first lead of the game early in the second quarter, a 3-pointer by Sullivan for a 13-12 advantage.
Knappa answered with a 3-pointer from Engblom, four free throws from Dale Takalo and a basket by Colton Weirup, whose score just before halftime had Knappa leading 24-19 at the break.
Scores by Ramvick and Weirup gave Knappa its largest lead at 28-19 to start the second half. But the night belonged to Sullivan, who almost singlehandedly brought his team back.
Sullivan hit three 3-pointers in the third period and had 23 points by the end of the quarter. He also picked up his fourth foul in the closing seconds of the third, and Harral and Jakob Handegard stepped in to help, as both scored baskets early in the fourth to give Vernonia a 41-37 lead.
Sullivan remained in the game, and his three-point play had Vernonia in front 44-40, but Knappa answered with four made free throws and two baskets by Eli Takalo for a 48-47 lead, with just under a minute remaining.
Missed free throws would cost Knappa, however, as it was 4-of-9 at the line in the final four minutes.
In a wild finish, Sullivan drained a 3-pointer with 15 seconds left for a two-point advantage, and Engblom scored quickly at the other end with nine seconds left for a 50-50 tie.
With 8.6 seconds remaining, Vernonia set up for one final shot, and Harral provided the game-winner, as the sophomore took a pass from Sullivan and hit a short jumper at the buzzer.
Vernonia advances to the Final Four for another NWL matchup with Columbia Christian, while Knappa will return in the consolation round at 10:45 a.m. Friday vs. Kennedy.
Handegard finished with nine points for Vernonia, which used just six players. Weirup scored nine points and Ramvick added seven points, seven rebounds and two steals for Knappa.
Knappa was 18-for-45 from the field, but just 2-of-14 from the 3-point line. Vernonia finished 7-for-12 from the 3-point arc, which included a 6-for-10 effort by Sullivan.